Sports

A big bounce back

Britta Madison shoots over the top of a Cedarcrest defender in the first half of Tuesday night’s 52-35 victory over the Red Wolves. - Matt Johnson
Britta Madison shoots over the top of a Cedarcrest defender in the first half of Tuesday night’s 52-35 victory over the Red Wolves.
— image credit: Matt Johnson

Halfway through their home game against Cedarcrest Tuesday night, some of the players on the South Whidbey High School girls basketball team noticed something. While the Falcons were trailing by four at the half, it was becoming clear that the Red Wolves didn’t have much punch on offense.

All it would take was one small shift in the Falcons’ defensive strategy to reduce that “not much” of a Cedarcrest scoring threat to none at all. In perhaps the team’s best half of basketball this year, South Whidbey snuffed out Cedarcrest, allowing them no points in the third quarter before going on to win the game 52-35.

The win could prove to be one of the most important the Falcons tally this year, as the Red Wolves and South Whidbey compete directly for a 3A playoff spot during the season. In the mixed 2A and 3A Cascade Conference, the team with the best head-to-head record at the end of the season will get the best shot at a playoff berth.

Giving her team a leg up in the first meeting of the teams this year was junior Britta Madison. She sparked the team’s second-half dominance into motion by putting the Red Wolves top scoring threat, Karen Laughton, on ice. Laughton scored seven points in the first half and none in the second.

Madison said knocking the Red Wolves out of the game was a simple matter of paying attention to the obvious.

“I think after we realized they weren’t playing at our level, we got more intense,” she said.

The shift was visible to the fans in Erikson Gymnasium. In the first half, the two team’s made messes of each others’ games as tentative offensive plays fell apart in the face of determined defense. But in the second half, Cedarcrest’s ability to handle the ball in the offensive zone disappeared completely as the Falcons shifted from a full-court man-to-man defense into a half-court variety. That upped the pressure on the Red Wolves, Madison said, forcing turnovers and eliminating second-chance baskets.

Pushing the Falcons into the lead was the 1-2 scoring punch of juniors Caitie Newman and Marcella Litwiller. Newman, the team’s leading scorer this season, had 17 points on the night, while Litwiller — who sat out most of the third quarter and part of the fourth after picking up four fouls — had 15. In the third quarter, the team’s offense exploited Cedarcrest’s lack of scoring to make a nine-point swing that put the Falcons in the lead 33-28.

South Whidbey also held an edge in free throws. Though trips to the line were few for both teams, the Falcons went 10-of-16 to Cedarcrest’s 5-of-16.

The Falcons are now 2-1 in conference play and 5-5 overall.

In junior varsity action, the Falcons had another win on the night, though just barely. Down 32-31 with 12 seconds to go, the JV Falcons got a break when freshman Erica Johnson was fouled on her way to the basket. She would go on to make two free throws to win the game 33-32.

JV coach Greg Hein said the game was particularly tough because illness had cut his roster to six players.

Leading the team in scoring was Destiny Burnett with 10. The JV team is now 5-5 overall.

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